Remembrances
4:48 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Ghanaian Poet Kofi Awoonor Among Those Slain In Nairobi Attack

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 7:38 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now we pause to pay tribute to one of the victims of the attack in Nairobi: Kofi Awoonor, who was born in Ghana in 1935. In a distinguished career that spanned politics, diplomacy and teaching, Awoonor is best-known as one of Africa's most accomplished poets.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

He was in Nairobi for the weekend, invited to speak at a popular literary festival. On the day before the attack, Awoonor spoke at the Nairobi National Museum about the unique perspective of the modern African writer. Thirty-three-year-old Julie Morioki(ph), an aspiring writer, was there.

JULIE MORIOKI: He was so passionate. His eyes were dancing. He was alive. He literally poured himself out 24 hours before he died.

BLOCK: Morioki says Awoonor encouraged the young writers in his audience to listen to the past for inspiration.

MORIOKI: He told us: When you want to write, look back at how your ancestors used to speak. Go back and listen to the stories of your people and then you will know what to write about.

SIEGEL: Kofi Awoonor went to the Westgate Mall on Saturday with his son, who was also shot in the attack but has since been discharged from the hospital. A new collection of poems by Awoonor is scheduled to be published next year. It's called "Promise of Hope."

BLOCK: Here's an excerpt from his poem titled "Across a New Dawn."

(Reading) But who says our time is up, that the box maker and the digger are in conference, or that the preachers that have aired their robes and the choir and the drummers are in rehearsal? No. Where the worm eats, a grain grows. The consultant deities have measured the time with long-winded arguments of eternity. And Death, when he comes to the door with his own inimitable calling card, shall find a homestead resurrected with laughter and dance, and a festival of the meat of the young lamb and the red porridge of the new corn.

SIEGEL: The words of Kofi Awoonor. The 78-year-old Ghanaian poet was killed in Saturday's attack at Nairobi's Westgate Mall. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.